My name is Ann ‘Annimal’ Najjar. I am currently the boxing coach at the UFC GYM Mission Valley. In 2007 I was 216 pounds, unmotivated and never worked out before. My older brother was in shape, an up and coming Pro MMA fighter and furthering his higher education. I never realized how nerve racking, intense, and exciting the sport was until I went to his first fight. After attending the fight, I had never been so inspired. It was at that moment that I realized I needed to learn and understand the sport.
The next week after his fight, he asked me to join him at his training gym. I didn’t go in nervous, I went in wanting to learn. I took my first boxing class with a coach named Berlin Kerney. He was very patient and willing to help. As he was helping me, I could not help but feel like the ‘sucky’ one, but the competitor in me made me want to work harder and become one of the top dogs. Coach Berlin gave me some advice that I will never forget it: “consistency is key” and I sure took that advice.
Months went by and I was still taking boxing class 5 days a week. As a result, pounds were falling off of me and I had fallen in love with the sport. I never went into this wanting to lose weight but it was happening. To sweeten the experience even more, not only was I doing what I loved, but I got to train with my brother.
In 2015, I was still boxing consistently, 40 pounds lighter, and now managing my brother in his pro fighting career. People were noticing my weight loss and asking me how I did it, and all I told them was boxing. Being by my brother in this thriving and thrilling sport was all I wanted. A year later our gym unfortunately closed down, my brother decided to throw in the towel when it came to fighting but I didn’t want to stop. I was hoping from gym to gym, trying to find a new home for boxing, but it just wasn’t the same.
I then had an old-time friend tell me about a hiring opportunity at the UFC GYM in Mission Valley where I applied and got the job as the boxing coach. I was so passionate about the sport, that the members could feel my high energy. This support and energy kept me wanting to do more. Any hour I had free I was training, from hitting the bag to running 5 miles regularly. Members could see how zealous I was, and how much faster, better and stronger I was getting each and every day. I went from 5 people showing up to my class to over 30 people regularly. Members were asking me for help and how to get better, making me realize that I was doing what I loved and I was in the right place at the UFC GYM.
Boxing has not only transformed me physically but also mentally. When I'm having a bad day, the one thing that makes me feel better is boxing. When in the ring, all I can think about is the fight and nothing else. It is one of the best stress relievers you can ask for. It teaches you to be patient, to focus and to not focus on anything else.
Today, I am 71 pounds lighter, one of the ‘top dogs’ and couldn’t be happier with my results. My brother was my inspiration and boxing is what I love. I still am training with my coach Berlin and just like he told me, I tell my classes “consistency is key”.